Research notes – Maria Kapajeva

Looking at Kapajeva’s series Portrait of the artist as a young women (link) (1), I understand the intention of the artist from her statement, but I am not sure the images she has taken for this are in total harmony with the concept. Most of the portraits seem to depict strong, confident women (perhaps with this one being the exception, as it seems to evoke feelings of frailty or apprehension instead). The main problem for me is not with the portraits, which are straight run-of-the-mill shots of the subjects, but with the settings and the expectations raised by the artist. I was hoping to see women depicted in their work environment, proud, successful and confident. Instead, we get to see confident-looking women at what appears to be their home and seemingly taking care of children, or otherwise simply away from any discernible setting that would enable us to discover a bit more about who these person are and what they do. In the end, the whole series has on me the opposite effect of what the artist was trying to achieve, and I have been wondering if this is where the personal connection comes into play. Perhaps Kapajeva, having growth in a social context where women are expected to do domestic chores and raise their families, has unconsciously framed her subjects in that domestic, family context from which she seems to be trying to escape.

I also had a look at some of Kapajeva’s other series and I would like to particularly note here her set Family (link)(2). The series portrays made-up situations including two or more characters, allegedly family members, that seem to be antagonized or are having communication issues. The portraits look like they are cut in half, but are actually made as two images presented side by side, almost in continuation of each other, but with a clear white band separating them. Kapajeva does not mention this in her statement, but I had the feeling, looking at these images, that she has probably drawn on her own experience and life to come up with some of the situations depicted, or at least to interpret them (she suggests that the ideas themselves came from third parties as part of her research). I particularly felt a connection between this image and her statement for the Portrait of the artist as a young women series. I felt that some of the images were a bit too obvious (including the image previously linked) while others were perhaps a bit too cryptic. The artist herself has selected not to provide any captions or text clues as to what the situations were, and this is perhaps a good idea as it stimulates the viewers’ mind into wondering what they were. One thing that is slightly disturbing from a technical perspective is the lack of uniformity of lighting used (see for instance this as an example) and this is a real shame because all these images were staged and is hard not to think that the photographer has disregarded the negative visual impact of this, as it does not seem to achieve anything from an aesthetical perspective.


(1) A Portrait of the Artist… | Maria Kapajeva. 2018. A Portrait of the Artist… | Maria Kapajeva. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 03 February 2018].

(2) Family | Maria Kapajeva. 2018. Family | Maria Kapajeva. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 03 February 2018].


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